Over 700 million people live on less than US$1.90 per day.1 Many of these families depend on insecure and fragile livelihoods. Globally nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are attributable to undernutrition, translating into the loss of about 3 million young lives a year.2 Recent research has shown that holistic livelihoods programs, such as the Graduation Approach can have a wide range of benefits for these poor families, from increasing household consumption and income to improving food security and mental health. The Graduation model provides families with a range of services, including income-generating assets, training, access to savings accounts, consumption support, and coaching visits, and variations of the model have been successfully replicated in several contexts. The aim of this research in Burkina Faso is to rigorously evaluate whether an adapted Graduation program design, which focuses on strengthening the household’s ability to cope with crises, leads to improvements in child nutrition and household food security. The baseline survey found the program has effectively targeted nutritionally vulnerable households. The randomized evaluation is ongoing.
We present findings from a pilot study exploring whether and how existing ties between urban migrants and rural farmers may be used to provide the latter improved access to formal insurance. Urban migrants in Ouagadougou (the capital of Burkina Faso) originating from nearby villages were offered, at the prevailing market price, a rainfall index insurance product that can potentially protect their rural relatives from adverse weather shocks. The product had an uptake of 22% during the two-week subscription window. Uptake rates were higher by 17-22 ppts among urban migrants who were randomly offered an insurance policy that would make pay-outs directly to the intended beneficiary rather than the subscriber. We argue that rainfall index insurance can complement informal risk-sharing networks by mitigating problems of informational asymmetry and self-control issues.
Can democratic elections reduce rent extraction by public decision makers? Existing research suggests that reelection incentives can reduce the embezzlement of public funds. This paper examines three additional mechanisms through which democratic elections could have an impact on embezzlement, even in the absence of reelection incentives: (1) electoral selection effects, (2) social norms and norm enforcement, and (3) citizens’ trust in decision makers. Evidence from an experiment with 472 groups of citizens in rural Burkina Faso suggests that electoral selection favors benevolent candidates. Furthermore, elections increase citizens’ willingness to punish corrupt decision makers, even if their ability to do so remains unchanged. However, these beneficial effects of elections are offset by an unexpected adverse effect: elections cause citizens to trust decision makers more than they should be trusted. These findings have important implications for the role of information in electoral democracy.
In this chapter, we report a field experiment in Burkina Faso, which aimed to isolate the effects of information content from other channels of influence through which an information intervention could affect voting behavior. The experiment was carried out in 38 rural municipalities, prior to the 2016 municipal elections. These 38 municipalities had been controlled by the same party for the past two electoral cycles, since the first nationwide municipal elections in 2006. In our experiment, we presented 741 randomly selected study participants with detailed information about their previous municipal government’s performance along nine indicators of municipal service quality in the areas of health, primary education, water access, and civil services. These indicators reflected national standards for municipal services, i.e. widely accepted service delivery targets. Simultaneously, a control group of 752 study participants was presented merely with information about the indicators of municipal government performance, without any information on the actual performance of their previous municipal government. Thus, our experiment varied study participants’ access to information about municipal government performance, but it held their knowledge of service delivery targets, as well as the method of information delivery, constant across the treatment and control conditions.
In Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mali, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Francophone West African poor.
Research shows that when people participate in the financial system, they are better able to manage risk, start or invest in a business, and fund large expenditures like education or a home improvement. Increasing women’s financial inclusion is especially important as women disproportionately experience poverty, stemming from unequal divisions of labor and a lack of control over economic resources. While demand and supply side barriers to women’s financial inclusion remain, this review shows that appropriate financial product design can help overcome some of these barriers. This review is organized by product and presents the existing evidence on the impact of savings, credit, payments, and insurance products on women’s economic empowerment outcomes, as well as the remaining open research questions in each area. The studies included in this review are limited to those designed as randomized control trials (RCTs), widely considered to be the gold standard in impact evaluation methodology.